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At-large seats a tough sell in Prov

You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to realize that proponents of a reconfigured Providence City Council were operating with a very narrow window of opportunity.

Dan Barbarisi has the latest:

Last night at the council’s ordinance committee meeting, two proposals were axed outright, and two others seemed to draw a cool reception from many council members.

Cliff Wood’s idea for a 15-member council with 10 ward-elected and 5 at-large members, and Seth Yurdin’s plan for a 21-member body, with 15 ward-elected and 6 at-large members were both removed from the discussion.

The council then scheduled a public hearing July 21 to consider the two survivors. One plan, by Council Finance Committee Chairman John J. Igliozzi, increases the size of the council to 18, adding 3 at-large members to the 15 ward members.

The second, proposed by Council Majority Leader Terrence M. Hassett and Ordinance Committee Chairman Michael Solomon, maintains the size of the council at 15, but removes three wards and replaces them with three at-large members.

This plan has been backed by a private group of influential city residents calling itself the “12-3 Coalition,” for the distribution of the council after the split.

A change to the composition of the council must be approved by city voters. The first chance would be concurrent with the presidential election in November, and the deadline for sending an approved resolution to the state to be put on the ballot is Aug. 6. The council would have to vote on a change before that date.

With the city knee-deep in budget deliberations, even some of the sponsors questioned whether this is the right time to consider this kind of change — which would involve redrawing ward maps, and changing the nature of representation for Providence residents. An Aug. 6 deadline, Igliozzi said, won’t leave enough time to fully inform the public on the ramifications, and properly debate the issue.

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